Transgender lives

transgender flagLast November Ellen Wittlinger — author of Parrotfish, the first young adult novel starring a transgender protagonist — took a second look at her groundbreaking book and concluded: "Parrotfish Needed an Update: The Rapidly Changing Language of Transgender Awareness."

Along with her article, we posted a roundup of available books for children and teens featuring gender-nonconforming and non-binary people (and the books’ contemporary Horn Book reviews). Those books were an optimistic — but small and imperfect — beginning for trans representation in children’s literature; with that in mind, the post ended, “Let’s hope that many more [trans-centric books] are on the horizon.” Happily, here are ten (!) more recent books, just in time to contribute to the national conversation about trans rights.

Preschool, Primary

red_crayonstoryRed: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall
This book isn’t specifically about gender identity, but its affirming message of looking beyond labels and assumptions is a good way to introduce the topic to young children. (Greenwillow, 2015)





hennessey_other boyThe Other Boy by M. G. Hennessey
Sixth-grader Shane is a budding graphic novelist, star pitcher, and maybe/sort of Madeline’s boyfriend. He was also assigned female at birth, and when he’s outed by a bully, his world threatens to implode. (HarperCollins, 2016)




Middle School

gephart_lily and dunkinLily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart
Timothy and Norbert, both thirteen, hate their names — for very different reasons. Through well-drawn characters, Gephart sensitively explores gender identity, bullying, mental illness, friendship, and family. (Delacorte, 2016)




High School

brugman_alex as wellAlex as Well by Alyssa Brugman
Fifteen-year-old Alex, who has been raised a boy, strongly identifies as female — and then learns she was born intersex. (Holt, 2015)

clark_jess chunk and the road to infinityJess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity by Kristin Elizabeth Clark
From the author of Freakboy, this novel follows the adventures of eighteen-year-old Jess and her best friend, Chuck, as they travel from San Jose to Chicago for Jess’s dad’s wedding. Along the way they navigate Jess’s transition from male to female and their own relationship. (Farrar, November 2016)

devine_look pastLook Past by Eric Devine
After Reverend Matthison’s daughter, Mary, is brutally murdered, transgender teen Avery starts receiving threatening texts telling him to repent. (Running Press, October 2016)

russo_if i was your girlIf I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo
After getting attacked in a mall bathroom, transgender eighteen-year-old Amanda decides to move in with her previously unsupportive father in Tennessee, where no one knows her pre-transition. A thoughtful, truthful coming-of-age tale written by a white trans woman. (Flatiron, 2016)

schmatz_lizard radioLizard Radio by Pat Schmatz
This dystopic science-fiction novel features a gender-fluid protagonist and raises questions about the importance of identifying as only girl or boy, straight or gay, human or lizard. (Candlewick, 2015)

spangler_beastBeast by Brie Spangler
Six-foot-four (and still growing), hirsute Dylan — known to his classmates as “Beast” — hates how the world sees him. After he falls off a roof (maybe) accidentally, he’s sent to a group for self-harmers. There he meets Jamie and falls hard for her. Jamie/Beauty sees Dylan’s/Beast’s humanity, and Dylan allows himself to feel happy for the first time in a long time. Then he learns that Jamie is trans, and his inner Beast threatens to destroy their tender romance.

williamson_art of being normalThe Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson
Two transgender high school classmates meet and grow close in this layered novel that spotlights different stages of transition and celebrates the importance of friendship. (Farrar, 2016)




YA Nonfiction

jennings_being jazzBeing Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen by Jazz Jennings
In an authentically teenage voice, Jennings talks openly about her transition at five, the obstacles she faced growing up, and her work as a trans rights advocate and reality TV star. (Crown, June 2016)

For more books about trans and non-binary people reviewed in The Horn Book Magazine, along with their reviews as written at the time of publication, click here. For more in The Horn Book’s Pride Month series, click on the tag LGBT Pride 2016.


Kitty Flynn
Kitty Flynn is consulting editor for The Horn Book, Inc.

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